TAMPA — It started with a pass interference penalty on a flea-flicker and Bucs coach Raheem Morris being told the spot of the foul was not reviewable. It ended with running back LeGarrette Blount going the wrong way on fourth and inches from the Falcons' 2-yard line with his team down six and 2:37 left in the game.
"That was not the singular play of the game that stopped us," Morris said of Blount's ill-fated run. "We're not going to sit around and talk about referee spots or one missed cut in a hole because last week (Blount) jumped over a man and made his own hole, so we won't go into those minute details of wins and losses like that."
Morris is right. Upon further review of the Bucs' 27-21 loss Sunday, there were multiple mistakes — by the officiating crew, players and coaching staff — that helped Tampa Bay snatch defeat out of the hands of victory.
There were bad spots, sideline miscommunication, helmet transmitters that went silent and rookies needing a GPS to figure out where to go on the field that doomed the Bucs on four plays to win from the Falcons 11.
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"First of all, we should've been first and goal at the 6-yard line," offensive coordinator Greg Olson said of where Falcons safety William Moore collided with Bucs receiver Arrelious Benn.
Replays showed Olson is right, but the ball was placed at the Falcons 11. No problem. Morris requested an instant replay challenge, but rules don't allow reviews on the spot of a foul.
No problem. From there, the Bucs could still get a first down without scoring a touchdown, and with more than five minutes left, they were in no hurry.
"We felt we'd been moving the ball in the last quarter and running it pretty consistently with Blount, so at that point, we said, 'Let's make it a four-down situation here,' " Olson said. "We're going to bludgeon them a little bit with Blount."
On first down, Blount went off right tackle for no gain.
That was when Olson put four receivers in a bunch formation to the left to run what was supposed to be a quick screen to rookie receiver Preston Parker. But the element of surprise was lost when Parker didn't line up properly, gaining 7 yards on what was ruled a lateral.
"We had not a trick play, but an unbalanced formation, quick screen that we didn't get lined up quickly enough," Olson said. "Again, that's just part of a young team.
"We alerted them that we were going to get to that play. … It was probably the heat of the moment. I'll learn from that, putting those guys in a real critical time of the game. You've got to understand who you have on the field there."
On third and 3 at the Falcons 4, Blount gained 2 yards, falling inches short of the first down. Morris could've used an instant replay challenge on the spot. But as they contemplated the next play, officials failed to reset the 25-second play clock after the ball was spotted.
Then the coach-to-quarterback transmitter died, and the Bucs burned their final timeout.
"I think they made a mistake," Morris said. "We're in Atlanta and somehow our headsets went out in that play. We had to run out there and tell our quarterback (Josh Freeman) and ran out of time. We had to use our timeout because we didn't have enough time to get to the line of scrimmage and snap the play because our headsets were out."
With 2:44 left, Blount was supposed to follow Roy Miller, a defensive tackle who entered at fullback, into the hole between center Jeremy Zuttah and guard Davin Joseph. But he bounced outside and was stopped by Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud.
"He didn't run the wrong play; he just made the wrong cut," Morris said. "We're all great running backs the next day. If he bounces out there and runs over DeCoud and scores a touchdown, we're all having a pool party.
"But he stuck his foot in the ground, he made a cut, his vision at that time was different than ours would be today looking at tape, and he should go downhill and he didn't. That happens. That's part of a young football team making a mistake, but we'll come back and get better from it."
Blount was claimed off waivers after the final roster cutdown and did not get full-speed goal-line work in the preseason. He did, however, score a touchdown on a goal-line play in a loss to the Steelers.
"I think that's another thing with LeGarrette Blount — not being here in training camp, you get a lot of those live goal-line scrimmages that he was not able to be a part of," Olson said. "So now it comes down to walk-through situations for him … but he'll learn from that."